I’ve always revered architects, and will often come to a complete halt to admire a building.
Even if that’s frustrating to the people behind me, honking their horns.
But while I love architecture, I’ve never really cared deeply about interior design.
So I didn’t immediately identify this statue as one of the founding fathers of interior decorating, Fritz Pingelig, in his day, draped in glory, and known throughout Europe (as well as the Sultanate of Brunei, and some parts of Abyssinia), as “The Iron Curtain” (or “Langsir Besi” in Malay, or “Yebireti Megareja” in Amharic).
He traveled the length and breadth of a war-torn continent, stitching together a more sophisticated lifestyle, advancing civilization yard by yard. And in the process, developing valance theory.
Pingelig felt strongly about home décor, and nothing in his plans was more important than curtains and drapery.
The statue depicts him with a curtain rod, draped in one of his baroque creations.
“I care not a pin for putting up walls, but envision a Running Fence of Fabric, separating culture from the abyss.”
During the endless strife during the Thirty Years War*, Pingelig somehow stayed neutral, traveling from court to court, castle to castle, on the rough corde du roi roads of the day, helping the hidebound to get over their hangups, introducing curtains and a bit of privacy to Europe.
“I can do nothing about this endless war,” he declared, “but at least I can oppose the drafts.”
He constantly exchanged ideas with other artists and architects of his day, through a network of messengers he called “The Silken Web.” Whenever inspiration struck, usually in the wee hours, he would dash off a textile message. The archive in Lisle, France preserves some of these notes, written in a tiny hand on scraps of foolscap – exhorting, self-promoting, criticizing – and they provide us a window into the past, and into Pingelig’s soul. Essentially, he was mad as a hatter.
Somehow surviving a badly-frayed social fabric, and decades of warfare, his tragic death stemmed from his blind hatred for Venetian blinds.
“A window hanging is too good for them” he would often say.
He greeted each new acquaintance with the question “You know how to make a Venetian blind?”
followed by “Poke him in the eye!”
Then he would laugh maniacally.
He never got tired of that one.
And he had a sword, so most people shuttered, but laughed along.
Finally, he trotted out this joke to a visitor named Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.
Who did not cotton to this bit of drollery.
Andrea, better known by his professional name, Palladio, was not only one of the most famous architects of all time, but a proud citizen of the Republic of Venice.
Shortly after this, Palladio invited Pingelig to the unveiling of a grand colonnade of his design, hinting that a nice bit of chintz might be the perfect, neoclassical finishing touch.
But due to a typo in the brochures, the affair turned out to be a cannonade, and Pingelig died in an accidental crossfire.
We draw a curtain over his soon-forgotten life, a loose thread in the tapestry of history, his legacy just blowing in the breeze.
No one really pays any attention to that man behind the curtain.
Peace to thy gentle shade.
* Ok so technically, the Thirty Years’ War wasn’t endless, but a lot of people said it felt kind of endless, between the wholesale slaughter, burning, looting, and the Baroque music – you can only take so much harpsichord and sackbut. A lot of folks said, you know, doesn’t it feel more endless than the Hundred Years’ War? Which was kind of on-again-off-again, there were famines and plagues to kind of add variety, at least you got a break once in a while? They would have laughed at the Seven Years’ War, big deal. And in our gone-to-the-dogs modern times, talking about the 1967 Six-Day War, please, people from the 17th c. would find it pathetic. Although the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 clocked in at under 45 minutes. Some people describe my digressions as endless, come off it, venga ya, they’re no ways as bad as the Thirty Years’ War.
P.S. I did not make up the name Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, that’s the Palladian architecture guy’s real name. His father wasn’t a gondolier, either, so I don’t get it.
P.P.S. There’s been a lot of confusion over claims that Pingelig claimed to have designed the Louvre.
He never said that. It was already there, for centuries. And Cardinal Richelieu told him, they already had enough curtains.
Pingelig designed the louvre, or what we in the U.S. would call the louver.
And when the Venetians came up with a better, adjustable version of slanted slats, that’s when the resentment started.
P.P.P.S. from Carole King’s “Tapestry”
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go…
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
Chap. IV “The Perils of the Pavement” Dog Warden Philip Eckel
Chap. III “A Tale of a Forgotten Colony” Harold, of the House of Hamburg
Chap. II “Giving History an Icy Reception” Teddy Roosevelt
Chap. I “Stumping for President” George Washington